Ajit Jaokar: Bridging the ICT gap

28 September 2015 Author: Ajit Jaokar, EIF Advisor

Everyone agrees that e-skills and ICT are important. The ICT sector is growing rapidly and creating about 120,000 new jobs each year. Europe might face a shortage of up to 825,000 skilled ICT workers by 2020, risking growth and digital competitiveness. In addition a growing percentage of jobs, today all sectors require an understanding of ICT. 

The EIF debate 'Bridging the ICT skills gap' chaired by MEPs Brando Benifei and Victor Negrescu addressed these issues. The event was part of the 'eSkills for Jobs 2015' campaign. Here are some key insights from the speakers and participants.

Victor Negrescu MEP: "We need to bridge the gap because Digital is our future and we have to work together. Digital needs to be seen not as an expense but as an investment. We need to also distinguish (at HR level) between skills and training and how these are funded. One million jobs would be impacted." 

Brando Benifei MEP: The need for cross party support for Digital. "We need to do more about accessibility."

Lucilla Sioli, Head of Unit - Knowledge Base at the DG CONNECT, European Commission: Many routine jobs will be replaced and we need to modernize and train the workforce. There are three levels of skills: Firstly, the wider population (ex the elderly) and their ability to use digital technologies. Secondly, people who work with ICT (like Doctors and manufacturers) and finally, people who are actively developing ICT tools and products. There are initiatives for coding in schools but modernizing education is hard. Hence, we have initiatives like the ‘grand coalition for digital jobs’ which are at member state level because the vacancies are at the member state level.

Prof. Peter J. Mirski, Head and Founder of the 'Management, Communication & IT' Study Program at the Management Center Innsbruck, Austria and member of the Supervisory Board of Academy Cube: The three pillars for ICT skills: Standardize description of skills and competencies, provide a platform where matchmakers can meet and provide a matching algorithm. Academy Cube provides this functionality.

Piotr Pluta, Senior Manager Cisco Corporate Affairs: presented how Cisco supports eSkills initiatives. One of this being Handisco startup - a connected white stick for visually impaired people.

Alessandro Bogliolo, Coordinator of the EU codeweek: emphasized the difference between Computational thinking and coding.

Patrice Chazerand, Director in charge of Digital Economy and Trade Groups at DIGITALEUROPE: indicated that ICT transforms all industries and lives. 


Analysis

To put this in a wider context, every network brings own innovation model. For example, trains opened up remote areas to commerce. But networks also lead to a co-responding demand in new skillsets. This combination of new technologies and new skills (for the Internet, we refer to ICT skills/e-skills) can have a wider economic impact. For instance:

  • Demand for coding skills
  • Inclusion of women in ICT
  • Regional empowerment through new companies
  • Socio economic impact for example inner city regeneration through tech start-ups
  • Impact on youth employment
  • Impact on disabled people ex Braille apps 
  • Open innovation - for instance in the use of open data
  • Networked business models where SMEs can collaborate to win larger contracts
  • Global empowerment ex the rise of India, China
  • Critical thinking i.e. the ability to synthesize, analyze, validate and build upon knowledge

Thus, the digital revolution promises transformation though new jobs, services growth and stability.


Examples of e-skills transformations

There are some real examples already in Europe showing the success of e-skills transformation. 

The coderdojo movement is a global movement of free, volunteer-led, community based programming clubs for young people. At Dojo, young people, between 7 and 17, learn how to code, develop websites, apps, programs, games and explore technology in an informal and creative environment. In addition to learning to code attendees meet like minded people and are exposed to the possibilities of technology. Within the CoderDojo Movement there is a focus on community, peer learning, youth mentoring and self led learning,  with an emphasis on showing how coding is a force for change in the world.

Galway, in Ireland has developed a cluster of medtech companies. Galway employs one third of the country’s 25,000 medical device employees and the West of Ireland accounts for 39% of regional distribution of medical device employees. There is a significant cluster of medical device companies with Medtronic and Boston Scientific being the largest MNC employers. The medical device cluster in Galway occurs through university-industry linkages. 

Thus, we see that the transformation is already happening at many levels - from schools, to start-ups and employment and bridging the ICT skills gap will have greater impact in future.

The issue is important as per some trends highlighted in a recent JP Morgan report on Millennials. These include:

• The millennial generation (individuals born between 1982 and 2000) is the subject of intense scrutiny. This year, millennials will overtake the baby boomers as the largest living generation in the United States, so there are plenty of reasons to study them.

• Today’s millennials are highly educated, but face headwinds in terms of student debt, global competition for the best jobs, below-trend wage growth and rising pressure on the federal government to curtail the entitlements they currently and will eventually receive.

• Millennials are more likely to study social science or fields such as communications, criminal justice and library science, and less likely than previous generations to major in fields like business, health, and STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Despite their love for social media, the share of millennial computer and information science majors has actually fallen over time, particularly among female.

Thus, a lot more needs to be done and the issue of eSkills is already urgent for the future.

  

This event was part of the 'eSkills for Jobs' campaign.


 

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